Divine Healing (and healing potions) Progression


I’m doing some tinkering with Holy Water and Healing Potions and am curious about the progression of healing spells. The combined Core + PC healing spells give the following:

Cure Light Wounds - 1d6+1
Cure Moderate Wounds - 2d6
Cure Major Wounds - 2d6 + 1 per 2 levels
Cure Serious Wounds - 2d6 + 1 per level
Cure Critical Wounds - 4d6 + 1 per level

A potion of Extra Healing, which requires Cure Serious Wounds, will heal 3d6+3 hp.

What was the design choice in keeping 2d6 for Cure Major and Cure Serious? Why not go 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, 4d6, 5d6?

And why, in particular, does Cure Serious not heal 3d6+3 like the Extra Healing pot?

Are these legacy design choices from B/X or a deliberate choice on Alex’s part?


When I was running the original Auran Empire campaign, I found that Cure Serious Wounds, as it appeared in B/X, was underpowered. It healed only 2d6+2 points of damage. 

I noticed that the spell became available at 6th level, and that adding +1/level would be equal to approximately 4d6 at 6th level - 7th level, with increased benefit thereafter. So I settled on 2d6+1 per level.

When in Player's Companion I added Cure Moderate, Cure Major, and Cure Critical I wanted to work within the established framework. Cure Major also becomes available at 6th level (3rd level spell), and having it do +1/2 level means it heals on average 10 points, right around 3d6.



Cool. Thanks Alex.

As always the insight is valuable :slight_smile:

I did do some analysis of the average results of those rolls and spotted the trend, but it’s great to get the wisdom behind the design. I like that the low end of each spell trends upwards, rather than having the wild variability of a straight 3d6, 4d6, etc…

I actually house-ruled how healing spells work a ways back and find it works out rather nicely for us all. I based that along a compromise of how deadly the game can be with how limited the number of spells that are available to characters. When the priest needs to heal the badly wounded warrior but rolls only a 1 giving the warrior a massive 2 points worth of healing, everyone can feel a bit frustrated. So this is what I came up with.

Any spell that heals 1d6+1 instead heals 1d4+3. If it heals just 1d6, then it becomes 1d4+2. And this is cumulative. Further, instead of Cure Serious Wounds being a 4th level spell, I shifted it down to 3rd level and insert Cure Critical Wounds as the 4th level version. In ACKS clerics are allowed 10 separate spells per level. I work with the players to see which 3rd level spell will be removed from their repertoire to maintain the right number for them to have access to.

And piggybacking on my healing spell house rule here’s a potion I shamelessly lifted from the Guardians of the Flame book series written by Joel Rosenberg. I loved the idea when I first read it and have been using these in place of normal healing potions for the past several years.

I present the Healing Draught. These waterskins contain enough magical elixir to heal up to 5d4+15 points of damage. This may be used all at once or doled out in increments of 1d4+3. It may be drunk or poured over a wound, but the target receiving the healing magic may not be engaged in combat or any activity involving movement lest the potion miss the target and be wasted.

The waterskins used to store these potions often have the sigil of the priesthood who created it, but these cannot be trusted as dark orders, sinister villains, and psychotic alchemists mix deadly poisons and place them in falsely marked waterskins hoping to trick thieves and invaders into drinking the lethal elixir.

Is the full base price for one still 2,500gp per a 5 charge level 1 spell item?

And does that mean the price of one on the open market, from the people that made it, is 5,000gp?

When using ACKS item creation guidelines it does cost 2500gp because it’s effectively 5 basic healing potions being batched together for the item.

Now I take a somewhat different tack on selling magic items when they do hit the open market. I don’t double the cost. The mark-up/margin on high dollar items doesn’t keep doubling like it often does for lower dollar items. This is in part because of the simplistic nature of profit in the game. The priest/mage sells the item and if they charge twice what they paid, they pocket the extra as profit. Instead I go for a 10% to 40% increase over the item creation cost with 20% being the most common.

Items are often commissioned in my world rather than the magic item discount store sitting on the corner. So if the party wants a Healing Draught they would find a church with someone able to make it who is available to make it. If successful, they then pay 3,000gp and the church makes a 500gp profit for their time.

Cool. Thanks for explaining what you’re doing.

harmyn said: Now I take a somewhat different tack on selling magic items when they do hit the open market. I don’t double the cost. The mark-up/margin on high dollar items doesn’t keep doubling like it often does for lower dollar items. This is in part because of the simplistic nature of profit in the game. The priest/mage sells the item and if they charge twice what they paid, they pocket the extra as profit. Instead I go for a 10% to 40% increase over the item creation cost with 20% being the most common.

I think that ignores the reality that a certain percentage of attempts fail, wasting time and materials (GP) in the process. The prices being what they are in the ACKS core book accounts for that rate of failure, and yields a reasonable overall profit across multiple items.

I would think even if the wizard fails in his attempt, he is going to expect some compensation from whomever commissioned him to try and make an item. And a few successes in a row creates a huge extra store of cash. My experiences with this issue started back in my ancient 3.x days.

There are 2 ways to go with this: Either the financial risks are taken by the crafter or the client.

In the first situation, the crafter sells the item at a previously agreed upon cost, multiplying the cost of creation to take into account the chance of failure. If the crafter succeeds the first time, he pockets the difference, but if he goes over, he can lose money.

In the second case, the client agrees to pay for the item’s creation and the caster’s time for a given attempt. If there is a failure, the client can pay for another attempt, but the financial risk is on them.

The former is the way things are actually be done in the real world. Risks like wasted materials are always computed into price as costs of production.

The latter, considering the sums of time and money involved in magic-item creation, is a recipe for murderously-dissatisfied consumers and a terrible word-of-mouth reputation. Many (risk-averse) customers would rightly be afraid of paying double (or even triple!) the listed price and back off, costing the crafter even more money in terms demand.

Even if it takes the former option longer, his customers know the price up-front, and he gains a reputation for reliability and honesty. The latter option results in extremely-dissatisfied customers and lost business.

Technically-speaking, the former way actually splits the risk between crafter and consumer. The consumer has to pay a higher price, but the cost isn’t suddenly going to double for him (as they would in the latter method). The crafter still has a chance to fail, but that chance is accounted for in the price; it’s giving enough profit that the transaction is worthwhile, even with the failure chance.

Alex has posted elsewhere that the small market for magic items means that the cost to produce some of the higher level magic items eventually eclipses what you can sell them for because there just aren’t enough people who want it at the cost to produce it. This is further corroborated by the fact that there are a few proficiencies (magical engineering is one i believe) that make it possible to turn the proposition profitable again. There was some analogy about a lawyer being paid to paint that escapes me :slight_smile:

I wrote a blog post about it: 


The key language...

Why The Expense of Magic Items Makes Them Unviable as Goods

Given that magic items in ACKS are expensive to create, why aren't they valuable economic goods? The reason lies in the often-misunderstood differential between cost and value. Cost is what it requires to produce a good. Value is what someone is willing to pay for the good. As an example, let's say that I'm an attorney who earns $100 per hour. Let's say that instead of doing client work, I decided to spend 8 hours sketching a drawing of my office. Being an attorney and not an artist, my drawing is not very good. Yet its economic cost to produce was the loss of 8 hours of my time, e.g. (8 x $100) $800. 

Like my hypothetical office sketch, magic items in ACKS cost more than their value. Consider the humble +1 sword, which requires 5,000gp and one month to create. In the hands of a hireling, the difference between wielding a sword, and wielding a +1 sword, is identical to the difference between being a normal man (Attack throw 11, damage by weapon) and being a 1st level fighter (attack throw 10, damage by weapon +1). 

The cost to buy a 0th level slave-soldier in ACKS is 415gp. The cost to buy a 1st level slave soldier in ACKS is 830gp, for a net difference of 415gp. An overlord might be willing to pay 415gp for a sword +1, the difference between the cost of a 0th level slave-soldier and a 1st level slave-soldier, but he wouldn't be willing to pay 5000gp. For that price he could have 6 more 1st level slave-soldiers!

Why, then, might a sword +1 ever be created? Only a few reasons would justify its production: 

1. Conspicuous consumption. A lord might commission a magic sword in order to show off his wealth. Such a sword would almost certainly be decorated lavishly and bear his house sigil and other markings.

2. Need to fight enchanted monsters. An adventurer facing, e.g., undead might need a magical weapon in order to harm them.

3. Performance at any price. A fighter of sufficient means, taking extreme personal risk, might be willing to pay virtually any price for an additional edge.

Now, consider the sword +1 extracted from a dungeon. It is of uncertain purview and ownership history. While finely decorated, it is unlikely to have precisely the decorations that a lord would seek to expend resources on. A lord might buy such an item as a curio -- "Ah, yes, Fritz, this is that blade that was found in the Ruins of Zahar! Charming work, what?" -- but he would pay much less than he'd pay for a commissioned item of his choice.

Other adventurers might buy the sword - if they don't have one of their own, and if they have spare cash, and if they trust their rivals enough to do business with them. This is a fairly small market, and an unefficient one. The likelihood of another adventurer of around the same level being in the same area and needing the specific item is low.

Finally, a mage's guild or other broker might buy the item at a steep discount, hoping to re-sell it later when there is an urgent need for it. Perhaps the mage's guild recognizes that the ancient sword belongs to a particular, distant noble house that would pay for it. They might buy it from the adventurers at a deep discount, absorb the cost of identification, authenticizing, and transport, and then sell it at a mark-up.

But in all of these cases, no one is buying the magic item because of the value of its bonus, per se.

The Industrial Revolution Will Not Be Magickified

It's worth remembering that the ancient engineer Hero of Alexandria invented the steam engine two thousand years before the industrial revolution. The engine was considered to have no practical use. Slave labor was so abundant in the ancient world that there was no economic need to industrialize - why build machines when human labor is cheap and plentiful? A steam engine might be a fascinating toy for a conqueror, but it would never become a capital good in the age of Rome. Magic items in ACKS fill the same niche. They are simply too expensive to create to be effective in changing their world. 

This does raise the question of "where did the magic items in the dungeons come from"? The answer will, of course, depend on the Judge's campaign setting, but in general ACKS assumes that conditions were different in earlier days. Many campaign settings will assume that magic was stronger "in the old days" (a common trope seen in A Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Conan, The First Law, and more) and thus magic items were cost-effective to make. Another assumption might be that long ago there was an industrio-magic revolution, with mass production techniques. It may be that the ancient items were created by the gods. Or perhaps the items are simply detritus of generations of adventurers. Whatever the case, it's not happening anymore.


Okay, going to try this again. Wrote a response yesterday but the ancient browser at my day job ate it.

In the real world a lot of it depends on how the contracts are written. Some businesses have gone bankrupt eating cost overruns they couldn’t bill to the buyer. Likewise, buyers have been bankrupted by cost overruns they had agreed to cover.

Now lets say Bart, a 9th level mage, is commissioned to make a +1 sword. That simple item costs 5,000gp to make and takes a month’s time. If Bart has never made one before his Magic Research Throw is a 9 (8 for being 9th level plus 1 for the magic bonus of the sword). He has a 60% chance of success. If he fails the first time and succeeds the second time, he will have spent 2 months and have no income to show for it. I can’t see many wizards being okay with that.

Now once Bart has made the magic sword, then the next time the Magic Research Throw is only a 5 (half the original difficulty since he’s made it before) and only costs 2,500gp and takes 2 weeks to manufacture. So if he is still selling the item for 10,000gp that is a 300% mark-up on a massive capital good. More likely he will be selling it for just 4,000gp to 5,000gp. So when a 5th level priest of a god or goddess makes a healing potion the first time the difficulty is 13 and it costs 500gp (2,500gp for my healing draught above). But once successful it the throw is only a 7 and costs 250gp (1,250gp for the draught). That is something to keep in mind when calculating costs.

I would normally expect the person to pay for the mage’s time at the very least regardless of success, provided you trust the mage in question. But that’s just me.

How is your 5th level cleric getting the throw down to 7? The target number doesn’t cut in half just because you have a sample (only the spell level portion cuts in half, and I’m not sure if it rounds up or down).

If the target number is 12 and the 5th level cleric charges his expected income of ~1,250 gp per month for his labor, average cost of mass-produced first-level potions is ~625 gp per dose.

That assumes this guy is selling directly to the public from his own workshop and doesn’t charge a mark-up against the possibility that multiple bad rolls in a row put him well below his expected standard of living for an extended period. (It also assumes he has a standard workshop and either a +0 ability modifier or a +1 modifier if the the half-spell-level modifier rounds up).

The division was an error on my part. I went back and referenced a PDF of the rules but was also at work on a break and trying to be quick. Ended up doing bad reading followed by bad math. The roll doesn’t have, but would say you round down, but that is just how I would do it. So I would say the roll is a 12+. But charging 5,000gp for it when the production cost is only 1,250gp is absurd to me. And again, I am not going off the thought of mass production. I am seeing it as commissioned work. And the cleric would still receive partial payment even on a failure or they may not be willing to commit that kind of time to the process.

Also, as I noted before, my charges came about in part from a player whose character was trying to go crazy exploiting item creation rules in 3.x.

I think the reason it seems absurd is that you aren’t accounting for labor cost (only materials). A 9th level character expects to make 12,000 gp per month with a minimum of risk/effort.

There are some commissioning guidelines on ACKS p 227. “The adventurer
commissioning the item will be responsible up front for paying
the base cost and the cost of any precious materials, and for
providing any required special components. If the spellcaster
successfully completes the item, the adventurer will then be
charged an additional fee equal to 7,000gp per month, or twice
the base cost, whichever is greater.”

Which, that 7,000 gp is less than the 12,000 GP threshold, but it’s the same principle (perhaps the mage offloads some of the work onto apprentices). Characters of such high level value their time!

To put this another way:

Somebody’s gotta pay for my “Summon Nubile Concubines” spell research!